Roadtrip with RVshare San Jose to Big Bear Lake

The area of California between San Jose and San Bernardino offers a wide variety of recreational opportunities. As you travel south, you will be close to both the Pacific Coast and to the many national parks and forests that are in the interior. You will begin your road trip from San Jose to Big Bear Lake in the city of San Jose, which is just south of San Francisco. San Francisco has a large number of historical and natural attractions, like the Golden Gate Bridge and the trolley cars on Nob Hill. There are numerous national forests on your route, and you will be close to Yosemite, Death Valley, Joshua Tree, and the Channel Islands national parks. Your destination city of Big Bear Lake is home to resort-style venues and activities; visitors to Big Bear Lake can enjoy excellent snowboarding and snow-skiing, boating, hiking, biking, fishing, and swimming, depending on the season. 

San Jose to Big Bear Lake Road Trip Itinerary

  • Trip Length: 7.5 hours
  • Mileage: 450 miles
  • Fun Fact: San Jose was once the capital of California.

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Nearby National Parks

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is only an hour and a half drive from Big Bear Lake. Taking the drive is well worth the time, as Joshua Tree National Park is one of the more unique national parks. Best known for being the home of the Joshua Tree, a yucca subspecies of the agave tree, the 790,636-acre park contains a wealth of varied habitats. Along with possessing the weirdly twisted Joshua tree, the park also contains portions of the Mojave and the Sonoran deserts. The Sonoran is a "low desert" that is arid with minimal vegetation, and the Mojave is a "high desert" that has higher humidity and more vegetation. There are various trails and other routes to sites like Keys View, a lookout point that offers views of Palm Springs, the San Andreas fault line, and the Salton Sea. 

Channel Islands Ventura

Your San Jose to Big Bear Lake road trip will take you through the city of Los Angeles, and a watery natural preserve is within reach off the Pacific coast. You will find five of the eight Channel Islands inside Channel Islands National Park: Santa Barbara, San Miguel, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Rosa. The park contains two different biomes that represent more than 2,500 species of plants and animals, 145 species of which are found nowhere else. The marine inhabitants range from tiny plankton to the blue whale, the largest mammal on Earth. The mainland visitor centers in Ventura and Santa Barbara are accessible by car or public transportation, but the islands are only accessible by park boats and planes or by private boat. Visitors should make plans accordingly.

Nearby State Parks

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park

Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park comprises 4,650 acres of forests and meadows within the Santa Cruz Mountains. Here, you will find an amazing forest of old-growth giant redwoods, the tallest of which is 277 feet high and 16 feet wide. Visitors can pick up a brochure from the visitor center and take the short loop trail through the redwoods to learn about the trees. There is also a second-growth area of redwoods in the Fall Creek Unit area. Other popular areas include the Garden of Eden swimming hole and the Fremont Tree, which has a hollowed trunk where you can stand.

Mount San Jacinto State Park

There is no dearth of activities inside Mount San Jacinto State Park. The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,650-mile trail that stretches from Canada to Mexico, and a portion of the trail passes through the park. Visitors can ride the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway to the summit of Mount San Jacinto, where there are hiking trails, a ski resort, and plenty of amenities. 

Chino Hills State Park

Chino Hills State Park is located in the Santa Ana Mountains. This 12,452-acre park is part of the Puente-Chino Hills biological corridor, and features stands of sycamores and oaks and more than 30 miles of hills and meadows. There are 61 miles of trails, most of which are multi-use. There are more than 200 species of wildlife, and you can often spot red-tailed hawks, turkey vultures, deer, bobcats, coyotes, and other animals. The park also contains Southern California black walnut trees, of which only a few thousand acres remain in California.

Along the Way

Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge is in the city of San Francisco, near the beginning of your San Jose to Big Bear Lake RV road trip. This amazing suspension bridge was opened to the public in 1937 and was the tallest and longest suspension bridge at the time. It is considered a feat of engineering and a fine example of Art Deco architecture as well. Visitors can access the bridge at either end inside the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and walk along the hiking trails in the park. You can walk across the bridge, and city guides offer free tours on Thursdays and Sundays. 

The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Mount San Jacinto is the highest peak of the San Jacinto Mountains, which are located a few miles south of Big Bear Lake. The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is the prime access point for Mount San Jacinto, and it offers an exciting ride up to the summit. The tramway's cars rotate for two complete revolutions as it climbs 2,643 feet to a height of 8,516 feet at Mountain Station on the summit of Mount San Jacinto. As you ride upwards, you will pass through five distinct biomes, beginning with the Sonoran Desert and ending with alpine forests. Upon leaving Mountain Station, visitors can stop and visit the park visitor's center, shops, and other amenities.

Griffith Observatory

The Griffith Observatory is a free public astronomical observatory located in Mount Hollywood in Los Angeles. The observatory was opened in 1935 and was made possible with a grant from the will of Griffith J. Griffith. It houses a coelostat system of three tracking mirrors that service three solar telescopes, but the main telescope of the center is a 12-inch Zeiss refracting telescope. Visitors enjoy viewing not only the skies above but also the sights below of Hollywood, Downtown Los Angeles, the Hollywood sign, and the Pacific Ocean. There are numerous displays and exhibits, such as the Keck Central Rotunda, which examines the connections between mythology and astronomy, and the Edge of Space, which illuminates a viewpoint of Earth from space.

Main Cities You Will Pass Through

Gilroy, California

Gilroy is known as the Garlic Capital of the World and is also a large contributor of boutique wines. Besides sampling the wine and the garlic-themed food, you can visit interesting parks, museums, and wineries. Gilroy Gardens Family Theme Park is an exciting theme park the family will enjoy if you have the time to play. There are various dump stations in the area if you need one. Coyote Valley RV Resort is right off Highway 101 and has a number of convenient amenities and fun activities, like a clubhouse and outside games.

Bakersfield, California

Bakersfield is located on the Kern River near Los Angeles. Bakersfield has lots of activities to add to your San Jose to Big Bear Lake road trip itinerary, like visiting the California Living Museum and the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History. The Sequoia National Forest is nearby and features a number of hiking trails. Bakersfield is a fairly large city, and you can easily find a dump station. Bakersfield River Run RV Park is close to all the amenities and services of downtown Bakersfield, plus you will be near many attractions in the area.

Barstow, California

Barstow is at the intersection of two major highways and functions as a road and train transportation hub. The Union Pacific Railroad and the BNSF both run through the city, using the BNSF's main railway line until the city of Daggett. You can tour the Route 66 Mother Road Museum, Mojave River Valley Museum, Desert Discovery Center, and the Western America Rail Museum. The "Old Woman" meteorite that is housed in the Desert Discovery Center is definitely well-worth a visit. When you are ready to grab a bite to eat, the Barstow Station has several food and shopping options for your convenience. There are many opportunities to use a dump station for your RV if needed. Soledad Canyon RV and Camping Resort offers a quiet respite from the road inside its grassy and cool resort that features lounges, a pool, and a spa.

Find Adventure from San Jose to Big Bear Lake

Find your One-Way Rental

When you follow this road trip itinerary from San Jose to Big Bear Lake, you will enjoy historic locations and beautiful scenery along the way. If you want to travel in comfort and style, consider an RV rental from RVshare. From large motorhomes to compact campervans, there is a rig that will meet your travel and budget needs. Once you hit the road, you are protected by our renter guarantee and 24/7 roadside assistance. Find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs in San Jose or Big Bear Lake.